Doha, Qatar – US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed confidence that weapons are increasingly ending up in the hands of moderate groups within the Syrian opposition.
Speaking at a joint press conference at Doha’s al-Wajba Palace with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, Kerry said on Tuesday that Qatar and the US have worked to tighten sanctions and help Syria’s opposition “build the unity and effectiveness that they need” to “change [Syrian] President [Bashar] Assad’s calculation on the ground”.
Kerry’s trip to Qatar rounds off a nine-country tour through Europe and the Middle East, the first international trip he has taken since being confirmed as secretary of state in January.
Although the US has not provided arms to Syria’s rebels, last week Kerry announced that the US would provide $60m in non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, including medical and food aid.
“We have now, for the first time … directed assistance straight to the military council and straight to the Syrian opposition,” said Kerry.
Sheikh Hamad was also optimistic about Syria, saying the international community was starting to “work in a more constructive fashion”, but said that if other countries had worked “with more diligence” on the issue in the past, the Assad government “would have been gone by now”.
He had harsh words for Assad and his government, describing Assad as a “terrorist” who is “killing his people”.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been among the most vocal advocates of providing arms to the Syrian opposition.
Kerry also spoke briefly about North Korea, saying the US hopes to “see the leader of North Korea take responsible actions for peace” in the region.
“The world would be better served” if Korean leader Kim Jong-un “engages in legitimate dialogue and legitimate negotiations” to resolve concerns about the country’s nuclear programme, Kerry said.
Sheikh Hamad touched on the Israel-Palestine peace process, expressing his concerns that “unless there is an agreement to put a timetable … to end the process, I believe there will be a real crisis and we will all lose hope”.